Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

So I've been doing Aikido for, what, three weeks now? Maybe a bit more.

It's a salutary experience.

Aside from physics, aerobics, and that logic class when I was 20, I don't think I've ever actually done anything I've been bad at. I don't mean a little bad, either: I mean as in astoundingly bad, wincingly bad, OMG worst in the class you gotta be kidding bad. I really suck.

And physics, aerobics, and that logic class I all quit, like, at once. As soon as I realized I was hopeless, I was fucking out of there. Yeah, no, okay, let's not, I said, and that was that.

But aikido, it's kind of like the algebra and finite math classes I took when I was 19. See, I wanted to do those (I also kind of had to, if I was going to get a degree) so I stuck it out; and also I started getting better at them almost at once, which helped a lot.

With aikido, I'm not getting better very much faster. Maybe a little better, which is nice. I mean, I'm not the worst person in the class anymore. (Only because a newer worser student has added. But still!)

The salutary part! For the very first time in my life, I can see what it is like for someone to want to be able to do something, to be actually trying to do something, and to not be able to do it.

Yeah, I know, smack me with a clue stick. And I've got it coming. Especially given I'm a fucking teacher, I should know better. And I have always tried to give my students the benefit of believing they were trying. But that's different, of course, from this: knowing what's like on the other side. I just can't do any better than I am doing.

Well, okay, maybe this is what it is like for my students who write me those sad emails, saying, I don't know what you mean by write an essay explaining how to fix a specific problem in my life -- how do I do that? What problem in my life?

Maybe that's just exactly like me saying to sensei I don't know what you mean by katatori ichio. What do I do with my feet exactly? Where do I grab? Turn which way now? I don't get it...

My friend Zelda used to talk about all kinds of literacy. This is what she meant.


Bardiac said...

Yes! I think it's a GREAT thing for teachers to try hard at something and not be good at it. That's the experience of a lot of my students in some classes, and knowing that sort of experience intimately helps me be a better teacher.

Good work!!!

delagar said...

Right! Every time the sensei demonstrates something, like three times, and he's going oh so slow for us idiots at the left side of the class, and then he says, okay! partners! And I get up and say, um, WHAT now? I think: this is exactly how my freshmen feel. Every day. Okay then.